Cliche of the Week 3 – Shallow Grave

June 14, 2010 at 12:44 am 9 comments

Bodies are so often found in a shallow grave that if one is ever found in a deep hole this fact surely will be the stuff of headlines.

This cliché, a standard from the crime reporter’s breathless word list, is rarely followed by a definition of the depth of the hole.

In April this year, a 12-year-old girl in Jamaica dug herself from where her would-be killer buried her after thinking he had strangled her to death. No mention on the size of the hole but it must have been shallow enough.

 A murder trial in Adelaide in March this year had a woman’s body at 1.2 metres, a depth indicating planning and digging tools. Not so shallow.

 Around six per cent of the 2,650 shallow grave bodies reported in the last three months were dumped.

 “A father-of-three was hit over the head, smothered with a pillow and then dumped in a shallow grave by the two men accused of murdering him.” (February 3, The Daily Express)

Infrequent usage in sports stories make this digestible: “The Giants lost another one-run game in which their bats couldn’t dig the team out of a shallow grave.” (August 19, 2009, San Jose Mercury News)

Read Cliche of the Week in The Australian newspaper.


Entry filed under: Cliche of The Week. Tags: , , , .

Gripping cliches Cliche of the Week 4 – Working Families

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kevin Price  |  June 14, 2010 at 8:14 am

    A grave, according to Oxford, is a hole dug in the ground to receive a coffin or corpse. The ‘standard’ grave depth (is/used to be) six feet (1.8 metres) and I believe that as many as three bodies could be buried in strata, allowing approximately half a metre for each stratum, which means the one nearest the surface is buried at about 800 cm. About 400mm is needed for a standard coffin, and one presumes there needs to be some covering of earth between strata.

    Perhaps we can extrapolate that a shallow grave is one that is not this deep. But be prepared for a new twist on this.

    The funerals industry has ‘defined’ a shallow grave in its ‘standards’ for green or eco funerals. For a green funeral, the grave does not receive a coffin, but a corpse wrapped in muslin, and it is buried in a ‘shallow’ grave because that facilitates faster decomposition. This is thought to be at a depth of about one metre or less. But not so shallow that it would attract wildlife.

    I’m gonna go green.

    • 2. chrispash  |  June 23, 2010 at 1:29 am

      this is great info, Kevin.

  • 3. rob walker  |  June 14, 2010 at 9:58 am

    a shallowness surpassed only by that of lazy journalists. It’s a grave situation.

  • 4. rob walker  |  June 14, 2010 at 10:01 am

    I’m never really sure where I’m supposed to add my suggestion for Cliche of the week. Never mind.
    A personal favorite of mine has always been “Forward Planning.”
    What other kind of planning would there be? “Retrospective Planning” is considerably easier, but of dubious worth.

  • 5. chrispash  |  June 14, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Please keep suggesting!
    ‘Forward planning’ is similar to ‘going forward’!

  • 6. Joy Montgomery  |  June 14, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Apparently most killers are not project planners.

    Here’s another one – “It is what it is.”

  • 7. George Bignell  |  June 14, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    There seems to be a “step change” in cliches used these days…..

  • 8. Cliche of the Week 13 – Cut Through « Chris Pash  |  August 22, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    […] 22, 2010 Cutting through the clutter of politic-speak feels like digging a shallow grave with a laser […]

  • 9. Cliche of the Week 23 – Broad Daylight « Chris Pash  |  October 31, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    […] Used 500 times a week in mainstream journalism, “broad daylight” sits high on the crime reporter’s must-have cliche sheet, along with “fled the scene“, “getaway car” and “shallow grave“. […]


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